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MadMax

Entitlement & Protection, a Ball Four Short-Story

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R1, 1 out, 14U Showcase ball playing a mash-up of OBR and Fed. PU is not tremendously experienced, and is varied in his proclamations of balls (silent most of the time, occasional declaration of "ball", sporadic pointing as to where it missed (corrected in post-game)) and the count. 3-2 count (at least this umpire as BU thinks it was, may have been 3-1), R1 breaks for it. Pitch is borderline and catcher comes up throwing. PU "calls" it a ball, LHB drops bat and starts heading towards 1B. Meanwhile, R1 is still screamin' towards 2B, F6 covering, and both the throw and runner arrive. R1 slides past the bag completely, with F6 missing the tag completely. We now have a runner, on the ground, about four feet beyond the bag, on hands and knees, looking at a F6 on his knees, with the baseball, about a foot behind (on the 1BS) 2B. Both scramble to their feet, and Runner makes a mad dash towards 3B, and gets caught in a brief rundown between F5 and F6, tagged out just before 3B.

OT coaches go bonkers.

Phrases such as "ball should be dead", "it's ball four, and it's a dead ball", "protected", and "my kid wouldn't have slid had you (the PU) called ball four!" started to emanate from three different directions. Here's what we (the umpire community) know:

  • It is still a live ball (and at no point became dead).
  • BR is entitled to 1B, therefore forcing other runners before him; BR is protected to 1B, even so far as walking towards the dugout enroute so as to drop off his bat, elbow and/or ankle armor, etc.; once he obtains / achieves / touches 1B, he is no longer a BR, but the new R1.
  • By sliding past the bag, and leaving contact with 2B, R1 is subject to being tagged out, and was in fact tagged out (and this was explained to the OTHC).

Now, beyond this, I'm trying to determine what a BU is to do when his PU partner doesn't vocalize, signal or indicate the outcome of a pitch – whether it be ball or strike. Granted, in my scenario, the Runner turned into a tag-able situation because he slid past 2B and left contact with it. But what if he slid before the bag, and never reached it? Adding to that, what if F6, in receiving the throw, lost the ball and it went beyond a reach's distance from him, but instead went to F4 backing him up? R1 has slid, not achieved the base yet, and now F6 is, by definition, obstructing R1 getting to the base... a base he is, well, entitled to anyway.

What are your takes on an event like this?

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47 minutes ago, MadMax said:

R1, 1 out, 14U Showcase ball playing a mash-up of OBR and Fed. PU is not tremendously experienced, and is varied in his proclamations of balls (silent most of the time, occasional declaration of "ball", sporadic pointing as to where it missed (corrected in post-game)) and the count. 3-2 count (at least this umpire as BU thinks it was, may have been 3-1), R1 breaks for it. Pitch is borderline and catcher comes up throwing. PU "calls" it a ball, LHB drops bat and starts heading towards 1B. Meanwhile, R1 is still screamin' towards 2B, F6 covering, and both the throw and runner arrive. R1 slides past the bag completely, with F6 missing the tag completely. We now have a runner, on the ground, about four feet beyond the bag, on hands and knees, looking at a F6 on his knees, with the baseball, about a foot behind (on the 1BS) 2B. Both scramble to their feet, and Runner makes a mad dash towards 3B, and gets caught in a brief rundown between F5 and F6, tagged out just before 3B.

OT coaches go bonkers.

Phrases such as "ball should be dead", "it's ball four, and it's a dead ball", "protected", and "my kid wouldn't have slid had you (the PU) called ball four!" started to emanate from three different directions. Here's what we (the umpire community) know:

  • It is still a live ball (and at no point became dead).
  • BR is entitled to 1B, therefore forcing other runners before him; BR is protected to 1B, even so far as walking towards the dugout enroute so as to drop off his bat, elbow and/or ankle armor, etc.; once he obtains / achieves / touches 1B, he is no longer a BR, but the new R1.
  • By sliding past the bag, and leaving contact with 2B, R1 is subject to being tagged out, and was in fact tagged out (and this was explained to the OTHC).

Now, beyond this, I'm trying to determine what a BU is to do when his PU partner doesn't vocalize, signal or indicate the outcome of a pitch – whether it be ball or strike. Granted, in my scenario, the Runner turned into a tag-able situation because he slid past 2B and left contact with it. But what if he slid before the bag, and never reached it? Adding to that, what if F6, in receiving the throw, lost the ball and it went beyond a reach's distance from him, but instead went to F4 backing him up? R1 has slid, not achieved the base yet, and now F6 is, by definition, obstructing R1 getting to the base... a base he is, well, entitled to anyway.

What are your takes on an event like this?

If you didnt know if the count was 3-1 or 3-2 you might benefit by using an indicator on the bases. Did your PU give a 3-2 signal as would be expected.  As you say it didn't matter in the OP. But there are sits where you turn with the throw and will not know what the pitch was even if he is vocalizing and possibly because even after vocalizing, he would have to go to you or another BU if more than two to ask if the batter went. The pro forum has a good example of Joe West making no call, but he did have a decision to announce after he determined what the pitch was. Some would dissagree with making no call if I recall a previous thread correctly.

Advice, in some sits, make no call, say stay there, find out what the pitch was and announce your call if needed.

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Dunno what BU could do, other than watch what happens at 2B. I have had no-ball vocalizing PU and on a 3-x count, with R1 stealing, the throw comes down to 2B and I have no idea if partner has gotten a strike or ball 4. And even if I knew that it was ball-4, I'm not saying anything to anyone. I'm watching what happens. 

Alternate scenario, R1 slides past 2B without touching it :
if R1/R2 takes off for 3B, you have to wait for the missed base appeal.
if R1/R2 is obstructed going back to 2B by F6, then you have obstruction. Probably award 3B.
 


 

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12 minutes ago, ricka56 said:

Dunno what BU could do, other than watch what happens at 2B. I have had no-ball vocalizing PU and on a 3-x count, with R1 stealing, the throw comes down to 2B and I have no idea if partner has gotten a strike or ball 4. And even if I knew that it was ball-4, I'm not saying anything to anyone. I'm watching what happens. 

Alternate scenario, R1 slides past 2B without touching it :
if R1/R2 takes off for 3B, you have to wait for the missed base appeal.
if R1/R2 is obstructed going back to 2B by F6, then you have obstruction. Probably award 3B.
 


 

I thought the ball vocal call was for the catcher, batter and dugout and would not be that loud to be heard  by the BU. what's changed that you would expect ball to be as loud as strike?

 

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Just now, Jimurray said:

I thought the ball vocal call was for the catcher, batter and dugout and would not be that loud to be heard  by the BU. what's changed that you would expect ball to be as loud as strike?

If the ball call was loud enough for the dugout to hear, how would BU not ? 

And what is your point ? My point was that knowing whether it was ball-4 or strike x was immaterial. 
 


 

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There isn't a reason for PU to announce loud enough for everyone to hear that it's ball four. It's incumbent on the players and coaches to know the situations they're in and react accordingly. Since PU didn't call a strike, the pitch is a ball. To @MadMax, what were the coaches doing or saying to their player during this whole thing?

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I think the OP's question was (I'm sure I'll be corrected if not), what is the BU to do if he doesn't know whether R1 is entitled to 2B on ball-4. Should R1/R2 be somehow protected from PU's ambiguous ball non-mechanics. 
 

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8 hours ago, ElkOil said:

Since PU didn't call a strike, the pitch is a ball.

But this highlights a good reason for verbalizing the ball call. F2 doesn't need to take the risk of throwing the ball away if it is ball-4 (and he can't be waiting for my slow-ass strike mechanic). Personally I think that this R1 stealing, ball-4 call should be loud enough for everyone in the ballpark to know the status of the runners. Players shouldn't have to wait for the non-verbalized ball wait time to know the status of the play. 

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Exactly, @ricka56... one has to understand the context. This is 14U ball... these F2's are already in a throwing motion as soon as R1 departs, often standing up and "causing" the pitch to be a ball. They're not listening for a PU to call Ball or Strike, they're gonnaThrowThatRunnerOutWithAMightyHeave!!! On the other side of the equation, R1 has been told / signaled to steal, and coached to not look back to the plate to see / find the pitch. Just GoGoGoGoGo! They're going to get to R2 and makeThisOneBigMightySliiiiiiide!!!

And, we've got a silent PU who might be drowning in his mask pads... we wouldn't know it, because one has to strain to hear him on count proclamations, directives of "Play!" and "Time", etc. So, if it was Strike 1, 2 or 3... doesn't matter, because with less than 2 outs, the ball is still live, and R1 is subject to a play upon him. And it (supposedly) is this major faux-pas to call a ballplayer "Out" then have to rescind it... yadda yadda yadda.

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I agree with the idea that the game should be about the players on the field, and that we as umpires should be as much 'out of sight and mind' as possible... HOWEVER!!! For the love of the game, we have to be loud enough to be effective! Giving counts, putting the ball in play, calling 'foul ball' on close ones, and yes, even calling 'ball' on occasion, requires significant volume to be effective. If we're trying to find balance between NOT being the focus of the game and being effective, IMHO we should err on the side of increased volume, especially in key situations. 

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9 hours ago, MadMax said:

 

What are your takes on an event like this?

Generic answer: 

1) Note any call in your mind. 

2) Once action is relaxed, tell all participants to "stay there"

3) Find out from PU the pitch call. 

4) Use that information to see if you need to announce the call you made in step 1.

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Umpires need to have a grasp of their surroundings and a feel for the game. I think that might be called having some instincts :HS

You should be able to see the runner going or at least figure it out by LISTENING. 

In a situation where it is not necessary for the catcher to throw the ball, the catcher needs a quicker/louder call. 

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12 hours ago, ricka56 said:

But this highlights a good reason for verbalizing the ball call. F2 doesn't need to take the risk of throwing the ball away if it is ball-4 (and he can't be waiting for my slow-ass strike mechanic). Personally I think that this R1 stealing, ball-4 call should be loud enough for everyone in the ballpark to know the status of the runners. Players shouldn't have to wait for the non-verbalized ball wait time to know the status of the play. 

I agree with you, actually.  It's an excellent reason to verbalize a ball call.  It's just that my larger point is while umpires should be loud enough, I can't fault them if they're not.

It reminds me of a botched IFF call. The ump can make a mistake, but ultimately the onus is on the players and coaches to know the situation. Because even in the OP, the ump may yell it loud and long, yet still be unheard if things are boisterous enough.

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@Madmax my thoughts to your questions:

Now, beyond this, I'm trying to determine what a BU is to do when his PU partner doesn't vocalize, signal or indicate the outcome of a pitch – whether it be ball or strike. If you are unsure on the call, let's assume the throw caught R1 versus an overthrow you can make your call and change it when you realize or are informed it is ball 4. If R1 steps off the bag then and is re-tagged you negate that action since due to your out call R1 left the base. Or you can go with the Joe West, wait, see and then decide/make your award. If strike 2 or 3 then R1 is dead to rights either way.

Granted, in my scenario, the Runner turned into a tag-able situation because he slid past 2B and left contact with it. But what if he slid before the bag, and never reached it? Ball 4 negates the tag. Call time since for all intents and purposes the play is dead at this point and award 2nd base since the R1 is entitled to the base, he is not liable to be put out in this scenario.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Adding to that, what if F6, in receiving the throw, lost the ball and it went beyond a reach's distance from him, but instead went to F4 backing him up? R1 has slid, not achieved the base yet, and now F6 is, by definition, obstructing R1 getting to the base... a base he is, well, entitled to anyway. I think I have nothing in this scenario. R1 is entitled to 2nd with no liability to be put out so obstruction with F4 having possession of the ball pretty much makes further advancement unlikely. Obstruction is going to be an award or protection to 2nd and once he achieves that base his protection ends. Now what about F2 sails the ball to F8 who does or does not get to it right away, F6 obstructs R1 on the 1st base side of 2nd but R1 breaks for 3rd and is thrown out by a step... do you enforce the obstruction or only protect R1 to 2nd?

 

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1 hour ago, ElkOil said:

I agree with you, actually.  It's an excellent reason to verbalize a ball call.  It's just that my larger point is while umpires should be loud enough, I can't fault them if they're not.

It reminds me of a botched IFF call. The ump can make a mistake, but ultimately the onus is on the players and coaches to know the situation. Because even in the OP, the ump may yell it loud and long, yet still be unheard if things are boisterous enough.

It's one thing to know the situation, it's another to know the ump's judgment.

This is true in any case where an umpire's judgment could reasonably go either way AND their judgment will determine the course of the play - IFF or not, ball/strike in this scenario or catch/no catch with runners on base - where the base runners need to know what the umpire has judged so they know what they need to do, or not do.

The umpire has to come up BIG, loud, decisive, and immediate, else the players are guessing.  They know the rules, they know the situation, but they're still guessing about whether they need to advance or retreat because they don't know what the ump has ruled.

And what happens - exactly this - the coaches, players and fans are losing their minds, and the game gets away from you.

Yes, sometimes things are just too loud and the umpire can't get over the background noise - that's not his fault...and it's also the exception.

And, yes, it comes with experience.  And there's only one way for an ump to gain that experience.

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If you vocalize a ball loudly, someone is going to hear, "Foul!" I would think it would be more important to give the count at any combination of 3 balls or 2 strikes. 

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I think there are a lot of things to consider here. For one, this being showcase ball, the level of play is going to be higher than normal. So I am going to expect them to know the situations, the rules better, etc. At the same time, I am going to be mindful that the catcher is going to come up firing and probably make a good throw, and the fact it is 3-1/3-2 the pitcher is going to be trying to be in the strike zone knowing that he can't afford another ball. 

All that being said, one thing I have been focusing on is my timing behind the plate. But knowing the situation if it's a ball I'm going to louder than normal and try to be quicker on my call than normal trying to avoid this situation. But IMO there are going to be times the throw is still going to happen, tags are still going to be applied, and I think this is a situation where even if a call is made, it's going to be acceptable to call time, sort out what took place, and adjust accordingly. 

 

Note: This play makes me think of the dropped 3rd strike, 1st base occupied, B/R takes off anyway and catcher throws to 1st, makes a bad throw/R1 takes off/etc type of fiasco. 

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2 hours ago, Mister B said:

If you vocalize a ball loudly, someone is going to hear, "Foul!" I would think it would be more important to give the count at any combination of 3 balls or 2 strikes. 

Perhaps, but whether the players hear foul or ball (four) they're going to let up.

Strike mechanics are different from ball mechanics.  Strike three mechanics are different than strike one/two mechanics, and is unmistakable.  Those are, as far as my memory serves, universal to every ball game I've ever experienced.  Without fail a blind person could deduce if the pitch was a ball, strike one/two, or strike three. So why can't we make sure our ball four mechanic is different from ball one/two/three?  That is a scenario where, anecdotally, I have observed to be inconsistent and not always true, ranging from being exactly like ball three (eg. "no", "outside", "ball", or whatever the ump does for any ball call), to pointing to first (which I've been told is incorrect) to saying "take your base" (incorrect??) to saying "ball four".

I think the bigger issue for me is a strike three call is typically delayed - so, if you haven't heard anything after a pitch you're not sure if it's a ball, or the delayed ring 'im up call.

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2 hours ago, beerguy55 said:

Perhaps, but whether the players hear foul or ball (four) they're going to let up.

Strike mechanics are different from ball mechanics.  Strike three mechanics are different than strike one/two mechanics, and is unmistakable.  Those are, as far as my memory serves, universal to every ball game I've ever experienced.  Without fail a blind person could deduce if the pitch was a ball, strike one/two, or strike three. So why can't we make sure our ball four mechanic is different from ball one/two/three?  That is a scenario where, anecdotally, I have observed to be inconsistent and not always true, ranging from being exactly like ball three (eg. "no", "outside", "ball", or whatever the ump does for any ball call), to pointing to first (which I've been told is incorrect) to saying "take your base" (incorrect??) to saying "ball four".

I think the bigger issue for me is a strike three call is typically delayed - so, if you haven't heard anything after a pitch you're not sure if it's a ball, or the delayed ring 'im up call.

These things are all idiosyncrasies of the individual umpires and part of the game. How each ump makes his call is up to him and everyone needs to adjust to the strike zone, timing, whether or not he calls "ball" and a myriad of other things. There's no need to formalize a ball four call or an associated mechanic. What happened in the OP was certainly unfortunate, but I'll stand on my point that while the ump may have been able to do a better job, there's nothing wrong, per se, with the job he did.

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6 hours ago, Mister B said:

If you vocalize a ball loudly, someone is going to hear, "Foul!" I would think it would be more important to give the count at any combination of 3 balls or 2 strikes. 

No they're not.

It's pretty hard to have a foul ball if the batter has his bat on his shoulder so if someone thinks they hear "Foul!" they shouldn't be on a baseball field...or play with sharp objects, for that matter. We don't umpire to them.

Sell the ball call with a voice that equals the closeness of the pitch...from very little voice on an obvious ball, to "BALL!" on a borderline pitch. Just like selling a play on the bases.

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6 hours ago, Mister B said:

If you vocalize a ball loudly, someone is going to hear, "Foul!" I would think it would be more important to give the count at any combination of 3 balls or 2 strikes. 

Never had that happen in a game that I've umpired.  Definitely correct about announcing 3-2.   That can really help eliminate a s&*(houses.  Preventive umpiring.

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